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Rules/ Odd and Ends/ The Fine Print

The Nature of Pinball

The unique charm of pinball lies, in large part, in the physical nature of the game.  Unfortunately, this means that unusual events and outright malfunctions cannot be prevented or can they all be perfectly compensated for.  This tournament attempts to strike a balance between compensating for malfunctions and accepting the physical nature of the game.  In certain cases, malfunctions will be dealt with more strictly during playoffs than during qualifying, at the discretion of tournament officials.

Minor Malfunctions

A minor malfunction is any incident without external cause which deviates from the normal course of game play, without directly causing a player's loss of turn and without providing any player a significant advantage over others.  A minor malfunction is considered part of normal play. Tournament officials shall determine what constitutes a significant advantage; in the event that such an advantage is obtained; refer to "Beneficial Malfunctions."

Major Malfunctions

A major malfunction is a game play problem with a machine that results in the premature loss of ball in play in a fashion that is not a normal feature of the machine's game play.  These may be unusual one-time events, or they may indicate a recurring problem that will need to be addressed by technicians.

Examples of major malfunctions include:

The bonus count begins while the ball is still in play. This can happen if, for example, the machine loses track of how many balls are in the drain trough.
A lit kickback fails to return the ball to play, ending the player's turn. This does not apply to other ball saving devices such as timed ball savers, ball traps, gates, or "virtual" kickbacks.

Any malfunction that results in the loss of one or more balls during multiball play, without losing all balls so as to end the player's turn, will only be considered a minor malfunction.  Loss of Tilt warnings, without loss of ball, shall not be considered a major malfunction.  When a major malfunction occurs, it is the player's responsibility to notify the scorekeeper, calmly and promptly.  The scorekeeper will request advice from a tournament official.  If the official(s) agree that the incident is a major malfunction, the current player will be asked to allow the ball to drain. This ball, and all others after this point will be considered "lost." At this point, each player will be asked to plunge any remaining balls he or she has remaining into play, but will not be allowed to touch the flippers.  When all balls are drained, the current scores for all players including the plunger skill shots and / or bonus count downs will be recorded.  At this point, once any issues with the game are fixed, a new game will be started with no attempt to re-establish game state.  Each player before the player affected by the major malfunction will be allowed to plunge one ball into play to reset the correct "order" to the players in the game, and ensure the advantage for each player for skill shot attempts are equal. At this point, play will resume with each player getting to play their "lost" balls on the game.  Note that if a player or official notes a major malfunction and the player opts not to drain the ball immediately, this ball is treated as a "normal" ball and not a lost ball, and the major malfunction is treated as if it occurred between the end of that ball and the start of the next players ball.  A player may not choose to play a ball on a machine normally where a major malfunction has been noted.  If the official notes the major malfunction as a beneficial major malfunction, or if the game is in a situation where draining the ball is deemed to be impossible (IE ball trough not ejecting ball, but still scoring points), the official may require the player to step away from the machine, and if necessary the official will help to remove the ball from play.

Scoring features that the player may utilize without ball interaction (ie Jurassic Park's Smart Missile, Last Action Hero's Smart Missle, etc) a specific ruling will be determined on how players may or may not use those features.  It some instances it is required that an official makes a ruling that is in opposition to the above rules in order to maintain fair play.  Under all circumstances the official(s) will use best judgement to maintain fair play and may deem it necessary to terminate a game due to a major malfunction and require replay on a new machine or the current machine after repair.  Official rulings are final and all players agree to abide by official rulings.

Known Malfunctions

Any malfunction that is determined to be relatively minor but unusual enough to merit comment may, at the discretion of tournament officials, be posted for players to be aware of before playing the affected machine.  Players who have played the machine before this notice is provided will not be allowed to replay the machine nor to replace it with play of another machine.  The occurrence of any posted malfunction will be treated as a minor malfunction unless it worsens or interacts with another feature to yield a major malfunction.

Catastrophic Malfunctions

A catastrophic malfunction is any event not purposely or inadvertently caused by a player, which immediately ends play for all players on the machine.

Examples of catastrophic malfunctions include:

The game system crashes and/or resets due to a software error or component failure.

Power is lost or interrupted.
A new game starts.
A major malfunction repeatedly recurs in spite of best attempts to repair the machine.

Any event caused by a player, purposely or inadvertently, including Slam Tilts, is covered under "Player Errors" below.  When a catastrophic malfunction occurs, the scores of the terminated games will be temporarily recorded if possible, any player(s) whose game(s) was/were not already completed must replay their game(s) from scratch.  The higher score for each player will be recorded as that player's official score.  In the event the machine cannot be repaired in order to continue play, see "Disabled Machines."

Beneficial Malfunctions

Any malfunction which provides at least one player with a significant advantage over any other player competing on that machine is known as a beneficial malfunction.  Tournament officials shall determine what constitutes a significant advantage.  Any beneficial malfunction which results in a player being able to continue play of a ball that normally should have ended is normally allowed once per game.  Examples of this would include an unexpected software ball save, a ball that bounces back into play without player action, or a ball that comes to rest on an unlit kickback in the outlane.  Any such behavior shall not be allowed if it repeats, meaning that tournament officials may require players to allow the repeatedly-saved ball to drain, or play on the machine may be terminated in accordance with catastrophic malfunction rules, at which point repairs may be attempted.  Any beneficial malfunction which provides one or more players with a significant scoring or strategic advantage in a way that is not part of normal gameplay will void the score of the affected player(s), unless all immediately-affected players and tournament officials can agree on a suitable adjustment of the score or other elimination of the advantage.  If the beneficial malfunction has been specifically avoided by the player, it is unlikely that a penalty is necessary.  If any player score(s) are voided, the affected player(s) may then replay the game after the other players have finished, and the new score(s) are used for the affected player(s).  Examples of beneficial malfunctions would include a jackpot switch that registers when a different target is hit, a valuable switch that scores repeatedly without the ball contacting it, a failed Tilt sensor, or a ball stuck during multiball.  See also "Stuck Balls."  Any situation which indicates the presence of a beneficial malfunction should be brought to the attention of the scorekeeper promptly, who will alert tournament officials.  Any player who intentionally takes advantage of a significant beneficial malfunction may be given a warning and/or have his or her affected entry interrupted and disqualified by tournament officials.

Stuck Balls

During the course of play, it is possible for one or more balls to become stuck on a playfield feature, usually after becoming airborne. If this happens during single ball play, the player must wait for automatic ball searches to occur.  The expiration of any timed feature during this period is not considered a malfunction.  If the stuck ball has not been freed after two such searches, or if the machine is not performing searches for some reason, the player must alert the scorekeeper, and a tournament official will be brought to the machine.  The player must remain alert and at the machine, as he or she is responsible for the ball if it becomes freed at any point.  Where possible, machines will be configured with "chase" features disabled, so that additional balls will not be released into play as a result of ball searches.  However, in the event this occurs, the player is responsible for continuing play, and a suitable malfunction will only be ruled if the machine is unable to function normally from this point forward.  A tournament official may initially choose to try to free the stuck ball through judicious nudging, tapping, etc.  The player must remain ready to resume play at the machine during this attempt.  If actions by the official result in a Tilt, this will be treated as a major malfunction (not the fault of the player).  If the official frees the ball but the player does not successfully continue play, this is normal play (the fault of the player).  Loss of Tilt warnings due to tournament official nudging is considered normal play.  If the tournament official is unable to free the stuck ball, the machine will be opened, and the stuck ball freed and placed either on an upraised flipper, with the player holding the flipper button, or in a manually controlled plunger lane, based on the desire of the player.  In the case of games with lucrative skill shot features not accessible by the flippers in normal game play, the tournament official may disallow the placement of the ball in the plunger lane or may require the player to plunge the ball in a way that avoid the skill shot.  If a game does not allow the player to raise a flipper while the door is open, or a game automatically fires the ball into play when placed into the plunger lane while the door is open, those locations shall be barred for stuck ball placement.  If the ball is inadvertently freed while the machine is open and drains without the player regaining complete control (stopped on a flipper), this will be treated as a major malfunction. If the machine cannot be opened successfully, or if opening or closing the machine terminates the game(s) in progress for any reason, this will be treated as a catastrophic malfunction. If the ball is freed and the machine closed without the player's loss of ball, play continues as normal.  If the game is in multiball play and one or more balls are lost as a result of freeing stuck balls, possibly ending multiball but not ending the ball in play, this will be considered normal play.  Any player who chooses to shake or bump the machine in order to free a stuck ball does so at his or her own risk.  No allowance will be made for a player who tilts while attempting to free a stuck ball, whether or not tournament officials are present. 

If a ball becomes stuck during a multiball mode, the player has the following choice:

- The player may continue multiball play as normal, but when he or she drains to only one freed ball in play, that freed ball must immediately be drained.

- The player should attempt to trap the other ball(s) in play and request assistance.

A stuck ball during multiball often represents a significant beneficial malfunction, and not informing a tournament official may result in a penalty.  Please note specifically that a ball ending up in the plunger lane during multiball on a machine where there is no autoplunger counts as a stuck ball.  See "Beneficial Malfunctions" for further details.

Disabled Machines

Any tournament machine that breaks down during play will be attended to by technicians as promptly as possible.  In the event that a breakdown is severe and cannot be repaired promptly, the machine may be taken out of service temporarily or permanently.  During qualifying, an alternate machine may be chosen by officials in place of a temporarily disabled machine.  A permanently disabled machine will be replaced with a game designated substitute by tournament officials (if a substitute game is available).  During playoffs, tournament officials will designate an alternate machine; the game in progress on the disabled machine, if any, will be discarded, and play will continue on the newly designated machine.  Any machine that is temporarily disabled for more than two hours will normally be considered permanently disabled. 

During qualifying, a permanently disabled machine presents a unique problem, as it is no longer possible for new qualifying entries to compete against ranked scores on that machine.   If the machine in question is disabled before 1PM on Saturday, all scores recorded on the disabled machine up to that point will be voided.  If time allows, a substitute machine may be added to qualifying, which will have its own independent ranking of scores from that point forward.  Any player who has previously posted a qualifying score on the disabled machine will be invited to play a "make-up" game for free on the new machine.  In the event that a machine is disabled during qualifying rounds at any time after 2PM on Saturday, the scores and ranking up to that point shall stand.  In this case, a substitute machine will not be added to qualifying.

Qualifying entries played before 2PM on Saturday therefore enjoy a slight theoretical advantage in the event of machine failures.  The addition of a substitute machine does not allow existing entries to be modified except in the case of replacing a score from a disabled machine.

Player Errors

A player error is any player action, purposeful or accidental, which affects the normal play or outcome of a game in progress.  Any player who tilts his or her ball in play will not receive any penalty other than the normal loss of ball.  Note that some older machines may penalize the player with loss of game; this is equivalent to tilting all remaining balls in order.  Abuse of machines is covered under "Player Conduct." and WILL NOT BE TOLERATED!  Any player who tilts the ball of another player, either through interference or by tilting his or her ball so roughly that the next player's ball is affected before play continues, will receive a score of zero for that game, unless tournament officials grant an exception based on the behavior of the machine in question.  Any player who slam tilts a machine, thereby ending play for all players, will receive a score of zero for that game and will be eliminated from the tournament and asked to leave.  If a tournament official rules that the slam tilt sensor is not functioning properly, the slam tilt will be treated as a catastrophic failure for all players.  Any player who deliberately tilts or slam tilts a machine in order to derive some benefit to his or her own play, or the play of others, under these rules, may be ejected from the tournament.  Any player who deliberately interferes with the play of another player, through distraction, touching the machine or player, or disrupting tournament procedures, will receive a score of zero for the game.  Any repeated offense under this rule will result in ejection of the player from the tournament.  Any non-player, or tournament participant not playing in the game in progress, who deliberately interferes with the play of any tournament game, will be given one warning.  On the second offense, the offender will be ejected from the facility.

Accidental interference is regrettable but can happen.  Any player or non-player who accidentally interferes with the play of any tournament game will be warned.  If the interference was sufficient to cause the loss of ball, this will be treated as a major malfunction.  If the interference terminated play for all players (for example, tripping over a power cord and pulling it from the wall) this will be treated as a catastrophic malfunction.  A player who plays out of turn in a multiplayer game will receive a score of zero.  The affected player may choose to take over the ball in play, if possible, or they may choose to have the incident treated as a major malfunction.  In the event the player takes over, he or she shall be deemed "in control" after declaring his or her intent, taking his or her position at the table, and making contact with the ball via the flippers.  The affected player may not change his or her mind once he or she is "in control." Any player who plays out of turn deliberately in order to employ this rule will be ejected from the tournament.  Because the main tournament consists solely of singles play, coaching of any player during a game, in any round, is not allowed.   If a player specifically requests advice on a game feature during play, his or her question may be addressed only by a tournament official, and answered only in terms of whether or not the machine is functioning correctly.  Players are not to seek assistance from other players or spectators.  Outside of play, players are of course free to discuss features and strategies as much as they like.  In mini-tournament events which feature team play, players on a team may freely discuss game features and strategy without penalty.

Tournament officials will be the sole determiners of what constitutes interference and whether or not it is accidental or deliberate.  Scorekeepers are strongly encouraged to watch for and, if possible, prevent incidents of interference.


Rulings shall be made by tournament officials, which include event coordinators and any person(s) designated as officials by the coordinators.  Designated officials may have restrictions on the breadth of rulings, and may be overridden by tournament officials. Any designated official or event coordinator is excluded from ruling on any play situation that directly affects his or her actual or potential standing as a player.


Software Settings

In general, the software settings of each machine will be adjusted to best accommodate tournament play. The following settings will be employed on any machine that supports them:

Tournament Mode
Free Play
3 Balls
Extra Balls disabled
Buy-In or Continues disabled
Game Restart disabled
2 Tilt Warnings (may be 0 on older machines)
Flipper AutoLaunch disabled
Timed AutoLaunch disabled
Standard Factory Settings for Ball Savers, Difficulty, Timers, etc.
Specific Difficulty Settings as determined by tournament officials
Automatic Reflexing Features disabled
Replays disabled (no score or Extra Ball awarded)

These settings may vary at the discretion of tournament officials.

Certain older machines may include extra balls and/or five-ball play.  These features may be utilized by the player unless otherwise posted. Players should also be aware that some machines end gameplay entirely for a Tilt (similar to modern games' Slam Tilt), that scoring mechanisms can malfunction (this is handled as minor, major, or beneficial, depending on the situation), that in some cases features that resemble pop bumpers and slingshots are not powered, and that some older machines employ gobble holes which end the current ball in play.

Hardware Settings

Machines used for tournament play will be prepared and kept in good working order to the greatest extent possible. Each machine will be properly leveled left-to-right and inclined front-to-back.  Expect outlanes to be opened and inclination to be high.  Any player with a complaint or question about the hardware setup of a machine should make his or her inquiry in between games, or in between balls, if urgent.

Machine-Specific Settings

In order to best suit tournament play, certain machines may be subject to specific settings or rules adjustments, at the discretion of tournament officials.  These adjustments will be made before tournament play begins, and will be documented if possible.  The intent is to eliminate features which can be abused by skilled players, or which arbitrarily extend play time to a degree that would hinder the smooth progress of the tournament.


Player Conduct

This event is held on private property that must be treated with respect.  It is a privilege to have this event and should be treated as such.  Officials reserve the right to refuse play to anyone at any time, as well as to remove anyone from the property at any time.  The tournament facility and playing areas must be kept clean.  In the tournament area, drinks are not allowed in the immediate area of games.  No food is allowed in the immediate qualifying area at any time.  Spills of any kind should be reported to officials immediately.  Trash should be deposited in the provided receptacles.  Please do not remove chairs or tables from any area where they have been placed.  All areas in the event area are strictly non-smoking. Smoking is restricted to designated areas outside the building or specific areas that are marked.  Violation of this and/or other rules will lead to ejection from the tournament.  Weapons and illegal drugs are prohibited on the property.  Naturally, any and all types of illegal activity are prohibited as well.


Personal Conduct

All players are expected to conduct themselves in a polite and sensitive manner.  Outbursts, especially those including indecent language, are unacceptable.  A wide variety of players and observers will be present, and these types of outbursts do nothing to promote pinball as a sport.

Any express or implied threats or actions of violence are grounds for immediate ejection from the facility, and authorities will be contacted.  Other possible grounds for ejection include but are not limited to fraud, theft, illegal activity, harassment, inappropriate behavior, public drunkenness, etc.

Abuse of Machines

Tilt sensors are employed to determine what constitutes unduly rough handling of each machine, within the parameters of normal play. Abusive handling such as punching, kicking, lifting, tipping, or rocking a machine, or hitting the glass in any way, is grounds for a warning and/or disqualification of game or ejection from the tournament, at the discretion of tournament officials.  THESE GAMES ARE BEING PROVIDED BY LOCAL COLLECTORS FOR TOURNAMENT USE   >>> BE NICE TO THEM!!!  If you have had issues in past years then consider this your advance warning.  Officials will not tolerate ANY form of agressive or abusive behavior towards games.


Any player who intentionally interferes with tournament play or otherwise disrupts the tournament setting will be warned and/or ejected from the tournament, at the discretion of tournament officials.


Any player who delays the progress of his or her game for more than 30 seconds, for any reason other than to await a ruling or resolution of a temporary inconvenience, will be given a warning.  Temporary inconvenience is defined as any condition which can reasonably be expected to be resolved quickly, such as unusual noise, lighting problems, etc.  An inconvenience such as sunlight glare does not normally qualify, unless easily resolved.  A player may choose not to play a game that is experiencing glare; they may reschedule their play or choose another game, within the rules of the tournament.  Sunlight glare tends to be temporary.  If the player is choosing to let a game mode time out, the total delay must be less than 30 seconds.  Delay is defined as time during which the ball is left in the plunger lane, or held on a flipper by the player.  Stuck balls do not count as intentional delays.  If delays are repeated or willful, tournament officials may terminate the game in progress and record a score of zero for that player.  Delays during playoffs will not be tolerated.  Players must be present when they are called for playoff rounds or face elimination.

Death Saves, Bangbacks, etc

Techniques known as "Death Saves" and "Bangbacks" are sometimes practiced by certain advanced players.  Because of the risk of injury to either player or machine, these are banned from tournament play.  In the event that a drained ball bounces back into play without deliberate player action, the ball may be played.  This may require a ruling from tournament officials if there appears to be abusive force employed by the player.

Wagering or Gambling

Please note that gambling is illegal in our venue and the tournament does not endorse, condone, nor support wagering between players. We also feel that pinball is mostly skill-based, making any wagering at best ill-advised, in addition to being illegal.

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